A new flashing billboard at the VINP maintenance area, above, greets visitors and flashes messages of speed limits and park restrictions.
While not popular with everyone on St. John (see Letters to St. John Tradewinds in this week’s issue) the V.I. National Park’s new flashing neon sign could be used for a variety of purposes, explained VINP Deputy Superintendent Mike Anderson.
“Primarily it was purchased for storm events and to share information with our visitors,” said Anderson. “It can be used for a variety of purposes; for safety purposes, for resource management purposes and we certainly want to make visitors feel welcome. We plan to make additional changes as time goes along to those messages so we’ll keep it fresh.”
The new sign, located at the beginning of North Shore Road at the VINP Maintenance area, can be used by several different VINP divisions, Anderson added.
“There are Resource Division uses,” he said. “For example the manta ray which has been seen lately, we are concerned that people are trying to touch the mantra ray, which is considered harassment of wildlife and may harm the animal.”
“That resource management message could be put in there to alert visitors,” said the VINP Deputy Superintendent. “We’re just experimenting with the messages right now so to speak.”
The new sign will allow VINP to communicate with visitors without having to post additional signs along North Shore Road, according to Anderson.
“One of the advantages of having the sign at the entrance to the park is that we don’t have to put up any other signs further into the park which may or may not be seen by everyone who needs to see them,” he said.
The sign will also be an important tool for alerting visitors to the presence of walkers on North Shore Road, explained Anderson.
“Everyone is not required to come by the visitors center for information so this way we can tell people that we have walkers and joggers on the very narrow roadway of North Shore,” said the VINP Deputy Superintendent. “One message could alert the driving public to the presence of people on park roads. So there are safety messages that will be included over time.”
While some residents have questioned the legality of the sign itself — the V.I. Code prohibits the use of billboards — the new VINP sign does comply with local laws, Anderson added.
“We did check into compliance with territorial laws and even though the sign is on park property, we were assured that there were no compliance issues,” he said.
VINP officials might consider moving the sign up North Shore Road, but it seems however unpopular, the sign is here to stay.
“We may look at the location of the sign as there have been suggestions to move it further into the park,” said Anderson. “But right now, we’re just planning to leave it where it is. Getting information to visitors is an important part of what we do.”
“We have received some positive feedback and some not so positive feedback,” said the VINP Deputy Superintendent. “The most important thing is that we get information to visitors in the most efficient and effective way possible. We had good intentions.”